Translation: Telugu poetry of Annamacharya

Sankeertanas by Annamacharya (1408-1503) 
Translated by Dr. M. Rajagopalachary
Annamacharya (1408-1503) is widely known as the father of Pada tradition of Poetry in Telugu (Andhra Pada Kavita Pitamaha) having written around 32, 000 sankeertanas out of which only 12, 000 are available now. He is the the pioneer of Sankeertana literature in carnatic music by showing the path to Purandaradasu in Kannada, Tyagaraju, Ramadasu in Telugu, and Venkatamakhi in Prakrit. His keertanas have pallavi, anupallavi (optional) and charanams. His Pallavi contains the central idea of the poem to be expanded in charanams. He has added a unique mudra of his own by using the name of Lord Venkateshwara instead of his own name in the last stanza. Annamacharya was abreast of his times as his compositions evidence rare social consciousness preaching equality of all irrespective caste, creed, gender, and position. His compositions have varied themes including selfless devotion, romanticism, detachment, metaphysical and existential enquiry and egalitarianism. He has a mass appeal because of his chaste idiomatic Telugu of Rayalaseema dialect with folk touch.
(Portrait of Annamacharya, by Lakshminarayana Sathiraju AKA 'Bapu')
1.                 Why study so many books...?

Why study so many books and search everywhere in vain?
To be precise, there are only two things—
Opening the eye of wisdom and closing it!!

There are only two words—yes and no
Either way it is dangerous; Mind is the target of both!
Say yes, it is bondage; Say no, it is deliverance
For the discerning wise, there is only one way!!

One takes birth and one passes away
The body is subjected to both these changes
Birth is uncertain; death is certain
For the wise only one is justifiable—absence of the cycle of births!!

This world is one and the other world is one
Distinctly the embodied soul is the target of both
Lord Venkatesha is the maker of both this world and the other
He is the only eternal refuge for all the devout!!
(Annamacharya, “Inniyu chadavanela yenthaa vedakanela…”)
2. How do you get rid of grief...?

Whatever be your learning or listening,
How do you get rid of your grief and get enriched?

Unless you abstain from calumny
Unless you are free from excessive lust
Unless you control your fickle-mindedness
How can you avoid misfortune and attain good fortune?

Unless you are free from greed
Unless you are unblemished
Unless you are free from ill-will
How can you overcome adversities and attain the other world?

Unless you seek Lord Venkatesha in your soul
Unless you are free from anger
Unless you abstain from telling lies
How can you overcome your uncertainty and attain success?
(Annamacharya, “Enta chadivina emivinina tana …”)

3. Jiva and Paramatma

You exist here as an individual soul, O Parrot!
And as the Supreme Soul outside, O Parrot!

The soul dwells in the cage of the body
And is brought up by me only, O Parrot!
By virtue of birth, you are caught in the shackles of deeds
And turned poor, O Parrot!

Day and night, you have studied brightly
At my behest, O Parrot!
Hidden behind the feathers of the body deftly
You are not in a position to stand the chill, O Parrot!

You are frightened of the Five Senses
And continue to live in alarm, O Parrot!
For whom do you hurry up except
The unkind Arishadvargas, six hostile temparaments, O Parrot!

Becoming a slave to gluttony, you talk
A thousand ways, O Parrot!
Though vowed to interminable desires
You still accompany me, O Parrot!

You remind me of both god and human
And remain in my mind always, O Parrot!
You have made me realize that
This is all illusion and can never be true, O Parrot!

Who are you? And who am I?
There is no absolute difference between you and me, O Parrot!
You worship him in your heart and mind
On Sri Venkatadri, O stubborn Parrot!
(Annamacharya, “Jeevaatumai yundu chilukaa nee….”)

4. Where is the need…?

When darkness is spread all over, you need a torch to detect;
But where is the need for a torch before a flood of light?

The distressed need to be protected and assured of fearlessness
Where is the need to save a happy comfortable man? 
The man lost in the flood needs to be saved quickly
Where is the need to save the one on the shore?

The bonds of the man involved in great karma are to be broken
Where is the need to free the man who is already free?
The weak who cannot earn a living should always be fed
Where is the need to feed the man who is fully fed?

The outright sinner needs You to save
Why does a discerning virtuous man need You?
If Lord Venkateshwara doesn’t relent and rescue the helpless
What use is His existence?
(Annamacharya, “Teliya jeekatiki deepamettaka pedda”…)

5. Wake up, O Lord of Romance!

Wake up O noble Madana Gopala! Lord of Romance!!
Wake up! O my unparalleled treasure!

You are the wanton elephant who wanders curiously
In the youth forest of tumultuous shepherdesses
You are the bee that relishes
The fragrance of the lotus-heart of Moon-faced Satyabhama

You are the royal parrot caressing Rukmini
In the cage of her embrace with love
You are the rising Moon and
Feast to the lotus-eyes of sixteen thousand wives!

You are the blue cloud resting always on
The hills of their breasts in a row in the lake
You are the Wish-fulfilling Tree that grants boons
On the Venkatadri bearing Lakshmi on Your chest!

(Annamacharya, “Meluko shringaararaaya meti madanagopala…”)
Dr. M. Rajagopalachary, Retired Professor of English, Kakatiya University, Warangal, Telangana. Active researcher, scholar-critic and translator. Born and brought up at Warangal. Obtained M.A. (1975-OU), MPhil. (1979-KU) with Gold Medal, and Ph.D. (1982-KU). Worked on Manohar Malgonkar for MPhil and Bernard Malamud for PhD. Worked on Bhakti Literature and Egalitarianism under UGC Emeritus Fellowship and translated more than 200 Annamacharya sankeertanas into English. Published 19 books and 75 articles. Recently edited Post-Colonial Indian English Fiction, Bhakti Movement and Literature (Rawath), Multiculturalism in Indian Tradition and Literature (Atlantic) with Mr. K. Damodar Rao; Translated 8 books from Telugu to English and vice versa for TTD, Telugu Akademi, Hyderabad, Sri Aurobindo Society, Pondicherry and Warangal. Recent translations include—Telangana Armed Struggle-1948, Sri Venkateshwara: The Lord of Utsavas, Vallabhacharyulu, Malgudi Nundi Macondo daaka. Received the State Best Teacher Award (2009) from A.P., Best Teacher-Researcher Award from KU (2006), UGC Career Award (1986-89). Areas of research interest include Translation Studies, Comparative Literary Criticism, Indian Aesthetics, Indian Writing in English and Indian Literatures.

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